LOS ANGELES (CN) – A South Los Angeles man faces federal charges of making online threats to kill law enforcement and others at the Los Angeles County Superior Court branch in Inglewood, as well as at a nearby school and business over several days this past May.
John Patrice Hale, 42, is suspected of making online threats that referenced the Islamic State group and explosives “planted in Inglewood sheriff vehicles” at the courthouse, according to the Justice Department.
Federal prosecutors say Hale used proxy servers and Tor under the online handle “Frost K Blizzard,” techniques used to make his internet connection difficult to pinpoint and anonymous, said U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Thom Mrozek.
Investigators have not uncovered evidence connecting Hale to international terrorism, but the case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney George Pence of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section.
Officers arrested Hale on Wednesday morning, and he appeared for arraignment on 10 charges in federal court in downtown LA later in the day. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
According to prosecutors, Hale’s threats included one on May 12 that said, “Our brotherhood will celebrate today when Allah sets the explosives planted in Inglewood sheriff vehicles at Inglewood court.” The Inglewood courthouse was evacuated and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Arson and Explosives and Threat Interdiction units were called to the scene.
On May 15, two similar threats were made to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department’s Court Services Division website. One threat read, “Allah willing we will be able to take out as many officers that pull out your parking structure. It will be a plus to take part of your American school across the street. ISIS will have revenge today.”
Law enforcement responded to the Inglewood courthouse and searched for threats, but the building was not evacuated.
On May 16, two more threats were made. One read, “Item under deputy car. Impact for half city block. 6 hours to locate it. At Inglewood sheriff station. If you have units out better call them back in.” Again, police were called to the courthouse, which was evacuated.
Along with the threats to the Inglewood courthouse, investigators say Hale sent a threat to a private business through its website on May 23. The threat read, “All praises to Allah. Today, we will detonate an explosive at your La Brea and Arbor Vitae location if our needs aren’t met by your company. ISIS.”
Prosecutors say Hale sent false information to the FBI’s tips and public leads webpage, despite a visible warning that false tips could result in a fine and/or imprisonment. In the tip, Hale said he knew a man who “would supply ISIS with explosives even planting them for them” and that include instructions from the Islamic State group “to send Inglewood sheriff department bomb threats via email,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
An indictment returned by federal grand jury on Nov. 7 charges Hale with five counts of making false and misleading statements concerning terrorism, four counts of making threats to injure in interstate commerce and one count of making false statements to federal law enforcement.
A federal judge set Hale’s bail at $10,000, and he posted bond. As a condition of his supervised release, Hale cannot use any devices that can connect to the internet and he cannot contact any of the victims or subjects named in the indictment.
He’s also to submit to a mental health evaluation. The judge scheduled pretrial proceedings for Nov. 27, with trial set for Jan. 9.
Hale faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison on each of the 10 counts if convicted.